Rebecca (Beccy) Vassie studied photography at University for the Creative Arts (UCA) Rochester. After graduating in 2008, Beccy spent several years in London working as a commercial photographer while supporting herself through a variety of other jobs. Aged 27, Beccy decided that she was not doing what she really believed in. So, in February 2012, she moved to Uganda with little more than a camera, a backpack, and a determination to forge a career as an international photojournalist.
Despite arriving with no contacts, within weeks she had established herself as an in-demand press photographer in this complex and turbulent country, working initially for Uganda’s Daily Monitor then increasingly for Western newspapers and news agencies. By 2014 she was regularly being commissioned by AP (Associated Press); her work was appearing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Independent and The Guardian; she was also taking photographs and writing pieces for leading international charities and NGOs.
In March 2015 Beccy was photographing Kyangwali, a large refugee camp in western Uganda close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, when she suffered a severe asthma attack. The facilities at the camp, and the medical kit with which Beccy always travelled, were not sufficient to treat her; she was rushed back to the capital Kampala – some five hours drive away – but, tragically, did not make it.
Beccy was passionate about using photography to raise awareness of marginalised people and enter unheard stories into public discourse. In the UK she photographed abandoned industrial-military spaces, documenting the effects on communities of declining British industry and manufacturing. In Uganda she fought to put stories of women and child refugees into newspapers; she documented the lives of Uganda’s LGBT community, hidden in safe-houses or defiant in public parades; she uncovered the little-known story of Uganda’s Olympic boxing hopefuls, aware that stories of hope and achievement are as much a part of Uganda as those of the refugee, health and political crises we mainly hear of in the Western press. You can see some of her work on her blog, or buy prints of her images to support the work of the Trust. Read retrospectives on her work on Shutter Hub and at the UCA Rochester blog. Read trustee Adam Barnard’s piece on knowing and losing Beccy in The Times.